Sunday, June 19, 2011

Perry's Prayer Rally and its Controversial Supporters

The Response Promo from The Response USA on Vimeo.

On August 6th, Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX will be the site of a Christian prayer rally that will beseech Jesus to guide America through its recent troubles. In the above promotional video, men and women list problems such as economic collapse, natural disasters, terrorism, and "perversion" (!) as the burdens facing the American people, necessitating a prayerful response. The Response rally, spearheaded by Texas governor Rick Perry, has attracted media and blog attention because of its controversial supporters.

According to the rally website, the Response leadership team includes staff from the International House of Prayer (a ministry with ties to anti-gay preacher Lou Engle) and the American Family Association (categorized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center). Also featured on the leadership team is Jim Garlow, a San Diego megachurch pastor who likened gay marriage to an "Antichrist spirit" and claimed that Satan is attacking the institution of marriage, according to Right Wing Watch.

Among the rally's official endorsers are right-wing historian David Barton, New Apostolic Reformation preacher Cindy Jacobs, IHOP director Mark Bickle, and Pastor John Hagee. David Barton has been accused of promoting revisionist history by critics; Cindy Jacobs has made homophobic and Christian chauvinist statements; and John Hagee is remembered for describing Hurricane Katrina as divine retribution against New Orleans for planning a gay pride parade. In short, the rally has a significant New Apostolic Reformation presence, with several leaders and supporters who espouse homophobic views.

The alarming details of this rally have not gone unnoticed by progressive observers.

- The June 10th edition of The Rachel Maddow Show featured an interview with journalist Wayne Slater, who said that Gov. Perry is "comfortable" allying with right-wing Christian groups.

- Bill Maher delivered a sarcastic, hard-hitting commentary on Gov. Perry and the Response rally on a recent edition of Real Time.

- In response to a statement from Response spokesman Eric Bearse, People for the American Way president Michael Keegan accused Gov. Perry of using his official position to convert others to Christianity, urging Perry to remove his name from the Response rally.

- GetEQUAL has circulated an online petition urging Gov. Perry to exclude the American Family Association and any other hate groups from the Response rally.

- In a June 13th statement, the Houston Clergy Council criticized the Response rally for its affiliation with the American Family Association, voicing concerns over church-state separation and inclusiveness.

- Finally, several groups plan to host a "Pray Away the Hate" protest outside of Reliant Stadium on August 6th, according to the Texas Independent.

I find the organizations and people behind the Response rally worrisome, as their involvement indicates that far-right voices are becoming increasingly welcome in some political circles. If Slater is correct and Gov. Perry does indeed know what he is doing by involving himself with these forces, what does that say about his political priorities? What does it say about how he views LGBT and non-Christian constituents? What messages will be promoted at the Response, given the organizations and people working behind the scenes? This rally warrants attention by Texans, as well as political observers across the U.S.

To read more about the Response rally, visit theresponseusa[dot]com. For additional news and commentary, visit the following links.

HRC Back Story: Texas Religious Leaders Speak Out Against Perry’s Anti-LGBT Prayer Service

Right Wing Watch: Fact Sheet: Gov. Rick Perry's Extremist Allies

Religion Dispatches: The View from a Jew at a “Solemn Assembly” Like Rick Perry’s

The Advocate: Rick Perry Unleashes Nondefense of Prayer Rally

American Independent: Jewish lawmaker ‘disappointed’ that Perry has allied himself with ‘exclusionary’ AFA


  1. Rick Perry continues to distance himself from the mainstream. What I can't determine is if it's by design or because of sincere belief. I go back and forth. When he took over the job after Bush he seemed far less extreme than he is now. (But maybe my memory is faulty.)

  2. Donna -- Whether it's by design or due to belief, the political consequences are troubling.

  3. Scary as it all is, the further the Religious Uber-right swings from the opinions of the average American, the further they marginalize themselves into irrelevance...and the quicker. Our job is to help them get the exposure they crave. All pendulums swing.

  4. It is extremely alarming that the RR has gained so much power and seemingly almost taken over the GOP. I read in that book recommended by Paul Sunstone (I think that's where I read it) that GOP candidates for political office know they have to stroke the RR if they want a snowball's chance. That is frightening.

    Right now I believe Jon Huntsman could be the best thing for our country -- not because I believe he should necessarily be president, but because he has a much more reasoned and centrist approach. He is an anomaly in the GOP. Huntsman could do a lot to making politics a lot less polarized, simply by entering the race and becoming a serious candidate. To tell you the truth, from my perspective he and Obama look a lot alike. He supports civil unions and helped make Utah's alcohol laws a tad more rational (of course since he moved on to become the ambassador for China we've taken 10 steps backward).

    I would be thrilled if Huntsman and Obama both won their respective primaries and had a civil race to the finish. And their debates about real issues would be awesome.

  5. Nance -- Aye. If anything good can come out of this, it's increased public awareness of the Religious Right's machinations.

    Cognitive Dissenter -- The increasing influence of the Religious Right should give sensible Americans pause. I wonder how right-wing Republicans would react to Huntsman gaining traction.

    What book did Paul recommend? Do you recall the title?

  6. The book is "The Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer. You can purchase or simply download the pdf file here:

  7. Cognitive Dissenter -- Oh! The one you were talking about on your blog!


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